James Bert Gillen of Lake Bluff, loving husband of Sherry and proud father of Jack, Caroline and Cassie, passed away peacefully at the age of 64 after a courageous eighteen-year battle with cancer. He is also survived by his sister, Maralee Murphy, nee Gillenberg, and countless loving relatives and friends. Born in Lake Forest and raised in Lake Bluff, Jim attended Lake Forest High School and then Carthage College where he received a BA in business, served as president of the Tau Sigma Phi fraternity, and met Sherry. Later, Jim earned an MBA from Marquette University, became a CPA, and worked in the fields of accounting, finance, and technology.
Jim raised his family in his beloved Lake Bluff where, like his parents, Bert and Agnes Gillenberg, he was an active member of the community. Among other involvements, Jim served as president of the Kiwanis Club of Lake Bluff and Lake Forest, was a community leader in “Vote Lake Bluff”, and hosted foreign exchange students.
An avid sportsman, Jim loved playing baseball, golf, and attending Scouts basketball games and Packer football games. After spending several seasons as a little league and soccer coach, Jim founded Pro-Vest, a company that designed and sold sports-safety equipment and acquired several patents for his line of protective vests and pads.
Jim also loved the outdoors. Mostly, he loved Ely, Minnesota and Bear Island Lake where he camped, boated, and waterskied at night under the northern lights.
He was a passionate man; he was passionate about cancer research and self-advocacy. He was passionate about the disabled community in our midst as personified by his beautiful daughters. But mostly, he was passionate about the simple things in his wonderful life like: playing the guitar, flipping Kiwanis pancakes, reading biographies, playing euchre with friends, watching “Survivor” with Jack, and angel food cake.
A memorial service will be held on January 28th at 11 am at the First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest.